Thursday, May 15, 2003

Ducks lead Wild on goose chase

Three straight shutouts in conference finals

By Ken Peters
The Associated Press

ANAHEIM, Calif. - Jiggy and those amazing Mighty Ducks are one win away from the Stanley Cup finals.

Anaheim goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere was a bit incredulous Wednesday night after he recorded his third consecutive shutout in the Western Conference finals. The Ducks beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 for a 3-0 lead in the Western Conference finals.

"It is a little surreal," said Giguere, who made 35 saves. "Obviously the team has been playing unbelievably in front of me, the defensemen playing so well, the forwards are coming back to help them. They're blocking so many shots in front of me."

A stunning 11-2 in the playoffs, the Ducks can sweep Minnesota with a victory Friday night in Anaheim.

Paul Kariya scored twice during a three-goal flurry as Anaheim took control in the second period.

Playing in his first postseason, Giguere extended his sensational run by becoming the first goaltender in modern league history to record three consecutive shutouts in the next-to-last round of the playoffs.

"He's unbelievable," Anaheim defenseman Keith Carney said. "Three shutouts in a row in the conference finals is pretty amazing. They had some quality chances, but he was there every time."

The 25-year-old goaltender's scoreless streak reached 213 minutes, 17 seconds, going back to the third period of the Ducks' clinching Game 6 victory over Dallas. The playoff record is 248:32 by Detroit's Normie Smith in 1936.

"They're playing so well. The goalie is a big part of it, no doubt," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We tried to move the puck across, and he still made saves on it. We tried in the other games to shoot more. He still made saves."

Giguere, who has four shutouts in the playoffs, has stopped 98 Minnesota shots in the conference finals. He became the first goalie to open a series with three straight shutouts since Toronto's Frank McCool against Detroit in 1945.

In Anaheim's first one-sided win of the postseason, Steve Rucchin scored 4:59 into the game. In the second period, Kariya scored, Stanislav Chistov scored, then Kariya scored again and suddenly the Ducks had the first big lead of the playoffs.

Lemaire, who has alternated goaltenders through the playoffs, pulled Dwayne Roloson after the Ducks scored their third goal. Manny Fernandez gave up another goal shortly afterward.

"They had some good chances," Fernandez said. "They really came through. Unlike the other two games, I felt they really showed up tonight."

He allowed one goal in seven shots, while Roloson allowed three goals while facing 16 shots.

Kariya made it 2-0 with his slap shot from the slot after Adam Oates fed him a perfect pass from behind the net. Chistov scored four minutes later when he wristed a back-hander past Roloson.

Kariya scored his second goal of the game and team-high fifth of the playoffs just 1:35 later with a baseball-like swing after the puck bounced off Fernandez's pads into the air just to the goalie's left.

Officials reviewed the play and determined Kariya's stick was not above the crossbar.

The Wild rallied from 3-1 series deficits against both Colorado and Vancouver to win both series. But Minnesota faces considerably longer odds now.

Only two teams have come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series: The 1975 New York Islanders rallied to beat Pittsburgh in the quarterfinals, and the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs came back to beat Detroit in the Stanley Cup finals.

The seventh-seeded Ducks, in the postseason just twice previously and never having advanced beyond the second round, swept defending Cup champion Detroit in the first round this year.

Among Giguere's saves was a fine block on Marian Gaborik's uncontested breakaway 61/2 minutes into the game. In perfect position, as he usually seems to be, Giguere went to the ice on his knees at the last second. Gaborik, who has nine goals in the playoffs, tried to slip the puck between the goalie's legs.

Instead, the puck hit Giguere's pads and bounced away.

"Maybe it's a result of the breakaway, not scoring and other chances that we had that we didn't score, that gave them a lift," Lemaire said.

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